This post was inspired by Rachel’s post “Evolution of a Field Biologist” on her blog: http://flyingcypress.blogspot.com/
Growing up, when people asked me “What do you want to be?” I always answered with either veterinarian or artist. I’ve always been in love with dogs and animals but I’ve also always been in love with art and drawing. In high school I fell in love with drawing fashion. I filled sketchbooks full of clothing ideas. I decided, some time around 10th grade, I wanted to be a fashion designer. The summer after 11th grade my mom actually brought me to New York City to visit and have an interview/portfolio judging with Pratt Art Institute (my mom is indeed pretty awesome, more about that in another post). I was accepted to Pratt but because it isn’t a public university there wasn’t much room for federal aid and we decided it would be best for me to stay home and go to LSU. Also in my 11th grade year I started work under the best boss I’ve ever had, a veterinarian. While working at the vet I decided I would like to go to vet school and on my Freshman Orientation day at LSU I changed my major from Fashion Design to Natural Resource Ecology and Management (with a concentration in wildlife and a plan to go to vet school).
My first Natural Resources class was RNR 1001 and the professor’s passion and knowledge (as well as my first scuba diving trip) made me decide I wanted to be a fisheries major! After seeing coworkers at the vet try and try to get into vet school I decided I didn’t want the stress they were going to. Fisheries became my new fascination and I also began taking Oceanography classes which got me interested in environmental science.
After my freshman year I left LSU to go to University of New Orleans to study environmental science and policy. You know, change-the-world kind of stuff. Unfortunately, I only attended UNO for a week… then Hurricane Katrina shut everything down. I spent the next year at community colleges and decided I did not want to return to New Orleans. I went back to Fisheries at LSU. What a GREAT decision that was!
After working at the vet for 5 years I decided to leave to work for LSU Fisheries and get more experience in the field. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in fisheries but I knew one thing, I didn’t want to study inverts, which was a huge part of fisheries science. Working for the fisheries grad students also got me interested in going to grad school but getting my Master’s was something I never really thought of myself doing. But as the semesters went on and my relationships with my professors strengthened I found out that grad school was going to be the perfect fit for me. I dropped the fisheries concentration to get some more wildlife classes and began searching for a graduate position. After almost a year of searching I found a long-shot position studying elk in Arkansas utilizing GIS. I’d never even had a GIS class before but I love elk so much so I applied. And amazing, I was selected for the grad job!
Now, 2 years after that, I am finishing up on my thesis project and about to marry a man I met in grad school. My future career is completely open right now but I’ve never been more excited about the possibilities. I will still be working on my research and thesis throughout the summer while searching for a job. I’m still in love with art and expend my creative energy by crafting and wildlife pencil drawings. All of these past decisions and circumstances brought me here and I couldn’t be happier with where I am. And thank goodness I didn’t go to Pratt!